makeover of chaiwala

The Rise and Makeover of the Chaiwala in the Cities of India


The era of coffee shops is passé now, the charcha is all about the chai and around the chaiwala. However, let the disclaimer come in—there are no political angles here. The humble and often ignored concoction of tea has finally taken the trendy crowd by its sweet spell. Or wait, there is more than sweetness to this beverage now. Across cities, the tea points are getting noticeable and drawing customers in hordes. The television adverts have roped in many tinsel town damsels endorsing white and green varieties, Chinese oolongs, Japanese senchas, African ruiboos, and many others.

The slimming industry has created a great hype over herbal tea and is also finding many takers of the singularly tasting green tea varieties. Many major brands are also cashing in on this with Lipton and Twinings in the row as well. Besides, tea-centric parties celebrating the arrivals of first-flush shipments, there are workshops and tea-tasting sessions frequently finding the tea lovers thronging to declare their love of chai.

Rediscovering the Benefits

Though the history of a nation of tea drinkers bears witness, it seems the benefits of drinking tea and its healthy ramifications are being sung anew again. From diabetes to skin troubles, to stress busters, to cold remedies, to digestion and of course weight loss—tea is often projected as a universal medicine which will benefit one trouble or the other.

The humble tea backed by science is finding takers among those who would rather include two cups of green or black tea to their routine than an hour of cardio. Thus, as a lifestyle choice, the humble tea is reaching places. That this concoction of our everyday life can be sugar-less and milk-less and even at times masala-less is finding believers. As the country gets younger, they are also trying something new and finding solace in it as it is good for health.

The Trendy Makeover of the Erstwhile Chaiwala

The statistics were always in favour of the tea drinkers, Indians drink close to 17 cups of tea on an annual per capita basis. Even with 2000s boom in cafe culture, the coffee mug hasn’t been able to replace the teacup or for that matter glass from its perch in the households and more so from the purview of the youngsters.

changing face of chaiwala

What tilted the scale was the growth of trendy tea stalls or chaiwala entrepreneurs. The mushrooming tea hangouts with pop culture reference and sassy hangouts are quickly winning over the crowd. The decade of 2010 saw the emergence of chain brands which pulled up the hip factor and became some of the most successful beverage start-ups too.

Some Stories

Here’s a look at some of the leading chaiwalas in the country:

  1. Chai Point: The brand has a presence in eight cities—Bangalore, Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and Chennai with plans of further expansion. They offer several varieties of hot and cold tea, shakes; and accompanying snacks.
  2. Cha Bar: The brand that started the revolution in favour of tea being a lifestyle drink. Created as a part of the iconic Oxford Bookstore, the first outlet was opened in Kolkata in 2000 and now is found adjacent to almost all the bookstore’s outlets. This brand offers an enviable range of more than a hundred varieties including innovative and creative menu items.
  3. Tea Junction: Tea Junction was formed in the year 2004 and now owns and operates over 45 outlets in Kolkata and Siliguri. Tea Junction offers more than 15 hot and cold “Tea” based beverages and a wide variety of snack and food items, prepared using only high-quality ingredients in a hygienic environment.
  4. TeaBox: This is an e-commerce start-up that is a leading revenue generator in their endeavour of premium tea sales involving loose tea leaves. They connect the consumer with the producer with a time-limited guarantee and deals with the traditional tea hubs of the country. They mostly cater to customers abroad.
  5. Chaayos: This tea cafe start-up is known for its bold experiments in flavours with an insistence on individual customisation. The company also features online delivery options and is a great hit among the crowd.
  6. Chai Break: This brand, with its presence across Kolkata, Durgapur, Bhubaneswar, and Guwahati, has its unique selling point in pairing thin crust pizzas with their cup of chai. They have almost thirty different flavours of tea and believe that their affordable and premium quality speaks to their loyal band of growing customers.

These brands are getting stiff competition from the other equally famous names such as Chai Thella, Chai Kahani, Tpot Cafe, Chaipatty Teafe, etc. They need to stay ahead of the competition too and they do that by the age-old technique—relying on customer feedback. Tea cafes and the chaiwalas are constantly improving and innovating their flavour and menu and also by adapting to the customer tastes.

The Challenges

Sometimes making things complex can be a cause of downfall. The tea market is largely unorganised but the new avatar of the chaiwala may not grow head on. Chai is the pulse of this nation and its humble background needs to be kept in view. While Chai Thela has stuck to the conventional method of pots and pans brewing, we see Chaayos working with machines and in fact even an IoT-powered robot called Chai Monk.

This brings us to the second pointer that is the demographic considerations which need to be kept in mind vis-a-vis expansion plans regarding locations. At approximately, Rs 80 per cup these tea-rooms are still offering an affordable option to tea at similar tea-rooms. Chaiwalas are rehashing and reintroducing old flavours only. But the fact remains that while coffee cafes and shops introduced coffee culture to Indians, the market for tea is huge and the potential for growth is even bigger given our innate connection to our very own chai. The new chaiwala has a huge market opportunity to look forward to.

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